McLaughlin wins GS title; UVM jumps to early lead at NCAA Championships
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colorado
The EISA had a big day today.
Under clear Colorado skies on this first day of the NCAA Championships, Dartmouth skiers went 1-2 in the men’s GS race, and the University of Vermont jumped into the overall lead with a strong showing of consistency across its men’s and women’s alpine teams.
UVM scored 134 points, just edging out the University of Colorado (CU) and the University of Denver (DU), which finished with 130 and 129 points, respectively. Dartmouth College is in fifth place with 96.5 points.
The big news is Dartmouth’s dominance in the men’s GS race. Brian McLaughlin ends his collegiate GS career as the national champion, and Tanguy Nef finished in second place. McLaughlin won the race in a combined time of 1:49.22, and Nef was just .19 seconds off the pace in 1:49.41.
Dartmouth Head Men’s Coach Peter Dodge was near-speechless after the race on a day that surely stands out as one of the best in his career.
“I’m Pretty psyched,” Dodge said. “Pretty psyched, yeah. No, that was, uh. Emotionally, I’m really psyched. That was awesome.”
After the conclusion of the first runs, McLaughlin and Nef were in 4th and 6th place. They were within striking distance of the podium, and they had the advantage of their coach setting the course ahead of second run. Dodge admitted to being a little anxious at the responsibility, but noted that he set with the intent of bringing out good skiing from the field.
“You’re always a little nervous when you do that [set the course],” Dodge said. “I tried to set something a little challenging. My guys were off a little on the first run. Didn’t want to set anything that would do any bogeys. I wanted to set something where you had to ski well. So I guess it worked out. They skied well. They skied really well.”
Following the first run, McLaughlin and Nef took different approaches to the second half of the race. McLaughlin resolved to hammer as hard as he could, and Nef switched up his equipment and took a zen outlook to the starting gate.
“I thought I skied pretty well first run,” McLaughlin said. “Maybe not a ton of 'send-factor,' not quite as much as I wanted. And then second run I just tried to really hammer down. It wasn’t perfect skiing, but I really hammered, and it was enough.”
Nef felt as if he’d left something on the hill after first run. He acknowledged having a difficult time discerning how to ski on the hill’s surface (which was in good shape — hard and grippy, without much of a groove — but different than it had been during the past two days of training). He’d skied a bit too round on his first attempt at the hill.
“I went to do some free skiing between runs, to try to really get the hang of the snow,” Nef said. “I got another pair of skis, which were a little harder, and that definitely was a good decision."
“At the start [of the second run], I was just like: I knew I was capable of doing something, so I was not really too worried about it. I was even smiling at the start because this is a nice place. I was like, ‘This is nice, everything is perfect. Just enjoy the moment.’”
His approach worked, and even though he felt an initial flash of disappointment at finishing second, his feelings quickly turned to joy. No one likes to finish second, but if you’re going to end up in that position, who better to follow than your teammate?
“I was like, ‘Oh, Damn. Brian beat me,’” Nef said. “But it was Brian, and it was even more incredible to see that we end up first and second, which was perfect.”
The third finisher in the men’s race was the University of Colorado’s Ola Buer Johansen, who finished more than a half-second behind McLaughlin in a time of 1:49.75. UVM’s Max Roeisland placed fourth with 1:49.93.
The scene during the women’s GS race was different.
First, it was an extremely tight race — just .06 seconds separated the top-3 finishers. And, the cast of top EISA finishers were from different schools than those populating the top of the men’s field.
Most notably, the Dartmouth women (including Foreste Peterson, who has dominated the EISA GS circuit this season), had a rare off-day. The Big Green were far back in the results after two of their skiers (Peterson and Stephanie Currie) failed to finish the second run after falling during the race. UVM and Middlebury, on the other hand, each fielded a high-placing finisher up front, followed by strong consistency to round out their scoring.
The top-two finishers in the race were western skiers: Amelia Smart (1:53.21) of DU placed first, and Katharine Irwin (1:53.25) from the University of New Mexico took second. After a slow start (she was in ninth place following the first run), UVM’s Paula Moltzan rallied to take the last podium spot with a time of 1:53.27.
Middlebury College’s Caroline Bartlett (1:53.37) was just off the podium, continuing the hot-streak she initiated at the NCAA East Regional, where she won the GS race. Following the first run, she was in the overall lead by more than three-tenths of a second. Though she slipped back slightly in the results and ultimately finished fourth, it was a strong showing.
Her coach, Middlebury College’s Stever Bartlett, was proud of her race.
“A good day for Caroline,” Bartlett said. “A tough second run. Obviously, expectations are to win after you’re leading the first run, but it’s a tough sport and Caroline did the best she could. Ending up fourth at NCAAs is a great result and something to be proud of.”
UVM and Middlebury finished out the day as the top eastern teams in the women’s results. The Vermont women finished in second with 71 points, while Midd was fourth with 55. The University of Denver women are in the lead with 83.
UVM was helped by Francesca English’s top-10 finish — she came through in ninth with a time of 1:53.63 — and Josefine Selvaag’s (1:55.22) 16th place.
Vermont Head Coach Bill Reichelt was excited after the race, and also noted how important consistency is in races as deep and volatile as the ones here at NCAAs. Many of the strong western teams failed to bring three finishers across the line in one race or the other.
“Best GS day we’ve had in recent memory,” Reichelt said. Just to get six [runs] through clean is huge, so we’re really stoked on that.”
In addition to placing three women in the top-16, UVM placed three men in the top-20. After Roeisland, Sandy Vietze (1:50.41) took 10th and Patrick McConville (1:51.69) placed 20th.
Tomorrow is another training day, and then on Friday night we head out under the lights for the NCAA Championship slalom races. Stay tuned.